Apologies to The Talking Heads; I can’t seem to get their song out of my head.

Today is a day where I will be celebrated, congratulated and given preferential treatment for filling a role for which I did not apply. In fact I didn’t even aspire to it. I did not covet, dream, muse or wish to fulfill the duties or reap the rewards of said role. It is a position of privilege granted to me many years ago. I neither interviewed nor trained nor studied to prepare myself for it. I was and still am frequently overwhelmed, over-matched, overcome and yes, overjoyed by this place in which I find myself. In many ways I have no idea how I got here. Today, is Father’s Day.

About 25 or so years ago I became a father for the first time. Fatherhood was not something I planned or designed for my life. Still, once it happened, I took to it. Sometime later for no real, supported or plausible reason, my wife once again believed me (twice) she would not became pregnant and we had two more children. Please don’t misunderstand, we wanted kids. I just had a really poor understanding of factors affecting the probability of pregnancy. Perhaps this says more than a bit about how prepared I was for being a father. Still, I loved it and continue to love it.

Fatherhood is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given and the truest most definite proof that God is real, present in my life and has a definite purpose and plan for me that I know of. It is a plan that I will almost certainly never understand.

Fatherhood was given to me when I didn’t know I needed it. It was given to me when I was almost certainly unequal, unprepared and unaware of the magnitude of the task set before me. Fatherhood was the white whale and I the hapless Ishmael cast onto the ocean without ship, harpoon or navigational skills. I was given the responsibility to impact lives when I had no skills to direct my own. Had I been forced to earn this right I would never have received it. Like some of us this was my only shot at this sort of mantle. Along the way our paths are strewn with mistakes, lessons and joys I consider gifts from above.

Ever strand your two toddler-aged daughters and your niece in a “buried to the axles” SUV on a back road in Nebraska? I have. Ever drive into the ditch or across the lawn at your house with the kids inside? Yep, check. You may think you see a pattern here but I have so many others. Send them to school in mis-matched clothing, Febreezed uniforms or without coats, hats or gloves in January? Check, check and check. How about lose your temper in front of their friends (who are already terrified of you for some reason anyway)? Tell the funny story about their potty-training misadventures to their boyfriend/girlfriend? Oh, yeah, nailed that one too. There are so many ways I’ve screwed up over the years and we haven’t even gotten to the ones where my discipline was, let’s just say, lax. After all I invented the practice of dumping the silverware into the silverware drawer because sorting the spoons from the forks and knives was just not time well spent. If you’d like to hear more, just ask my kids, they’ve got the emotional and physical scars to prove it. They’ve been the unfortunate guinea pigs as I learned many, many lessons.

I’ve learned never to have them around when I do any, I repeat ANY, DIY project unless they know the difference between language that’s acceptable when no one’s around and socially acceptable language. I’ve learned to be the calming influence (with the exception of home improvement or handyman encounters) when things go terribly, terribly wrong or they’ve been terribly, terribly wrong. I’ve also learned to apologize to my kids when I’ve been terribly, terribly wrong and spoken harshly to them when I was worked up (probably because I tried to fix something). As they’ve gotten older I’ve learned that I can discuss adult things with them. You know, those things that their little brains couldn’t and shouldn’t have to try and comprehend? Along the way I don’t think they’ve been shielded, although no one ever really is completely when they’re living under the same roof, but being candid about grown up stuff is more important as they move into serious relationships. As they’ve moved into adulthood I’ve learned, not without struggle, to keep my mouth shut and let them fail on their own. Sometimes I fail at this and sometimes I go all Socratic Method on them to hopefully lead them to the proper conclusion. Their endeavors don’t always go well (apple not falling far from the tree there) and it’s at those times when the wheels come off that I get to do one of the most joyful things I’ve never deserved in my life. I get to help.

I have the privilege of working through a problem, whether of their making or not, with the person that right then, I love more than anything I’ve known. I am allowed to coach and comfort and come closer to this person who I would lay down my life for if needed. Need a ride at 4:00 a.m. to the airport? Done. Moving on a Sunday in the rain? Done (“What bad back? That’s what Alleve is for”). When the kids need me and are willing to ask for help I know that the purpose I’ve been put here for is being fulfilled. When I help I think I get a glimpse of the kind of love and care my Father has for me. So, helping them makes me feel good and drives our relationship deeper just as I’m sure He desires a deeper relationship with me. So, do I love the crises, the times when I’ve had to scrap my plans for a Saturday or lose sleep? No! And, yes! I love it all because I’m doing all that good stuff and bad stuff and uncomfortable stuff with the little monsters (who are now big monsters) that I didn’t set out to be associated with at all and that’s the gift part of this.

So, today I’ll hug each of them a little harder, a little longer and I’ll look a little deeper into their eyes when I say, “I love you” or “I love ya, man!” I’ll feel a little luckier and a little more astounded that things have worked out this way and that T Heads song will roll through my head over and over again. And I’ll smile because I really have no idea what I’m doing or how I got here.

Fatherhood really does amaze me. I hope that you’ll pass this along to your dad with a “thanks” and share it with someone else.

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